From Academic Kids


Scientific classification

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See Manzanita (album) for the Mia Doi Todd album.

The Manzanitas are a subgenus of the genus Arctostaphylos. They are evergreen shrubs or small trees present in the chaparral biome of western North America, where they occur from southern British Columbia in Canada, Washington to California and New Mexico in the United States, and throughout much of northern and central Mexico. They are characterised by smooth, orange or red bark and stiff, twisting branches. There are about 60 species of manzanita, ranging from ground-hugging coastal and mountain species to small trees up to 6m tall. Manzanitas bloom in the spring and carry berries in summer. The berries and flowers of some species are edible.

Manzanita bark
Manzanita bark

See also Bearberry for other species in the same genus.

The word manzanita is the Spanish diminutive of manzana (apple). A literal translation would be little apple. The name manzanita is also sometimes used to refer to species in the related genus Arbutus, more usually known as madroņo.


Manzanita (tree and larger shrub varieties) are sometimes used for ornamental plants, because of their high drought-tolerance and unusual bark and leaf colors. However, because most species grow slowly and in dense clusters, often a landscaper will simply remove all but a few attractive samples, which are then pruned of dead wood.

Manzanita wood, when dry, is a very good fuel for wood burning in a campfire, barbecue, fireplace, and stove. It is dense and burns at a high temperature for long periods. However, caution should be exercised, because the high temperatures can damage thin walled barbecues, and even crack cast iron stoves or cause chimney fires.

The wood is notoriously hard to cure, mostly due to cracking against the grain, giving it few uses as lumber. The slow growth rate and high number of branchings further decrease the sizes available. Some furniture and art utilizes whole round branches, which reduces cracking and preserves the deep red color.

One unusual market for manzanita is as perches for parrots and other large birds, kept as pets. The branches of the larger species are extremely long lasting in this regard.

The dead wood decays slowly and can last for many years, on and off of the plant. It bleaches under sunlight to light grey or white tones and smooth surfaces, often times looking like animal bones. Because of this and the stunted slow growth of many species, it is often found in unusual shapes, and collected. This earned it the nickname mountain driftwood.

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